Monday, September 16, 2013
Ten Tips on Addressing Conflict Within the Church
I once was the rector of a parish that was made up of several different congregations that had declined or closed over the years. The rector who presided over one of the main assimilations, whose tenure was 12 years, and who immediately preceeded my predecessor, and then me by 5 years, had a deadly policy: "There will be no conflict here." He achieved this by mandating, for example, that there would be no solos in the choir (purportedly to quell competition and hard feelings). In similar fashion, he decreed that the baptismal font from the incoming congregation would be retained and used whenever a family member from that congregation was baptized (to avoid their sense of loss). I found out about this particular tradition by accident and out of ignorance, with much consternation. The same was done with the funeral palls. Another expression of this "no conflict" policy was that this rector also saw that a proportionate number of lay minstry was spread out among the component congregations as a percentage distribution, regardless of whether the calling, talent or excellence was present from each to warrant it. A sense of "what's fair" reigned over and prevented healthy grieving; excellence in ministry through recognizing and raising up gifts and talents gave way to a vanilla veneer of mediocrity. My immediate predecessor, who experienced 5 miserable years of conflict management and I, also of 5 succeding, challenging years, reaped the disastrous results of that "no conflict" policy. This unhappy situation also "ate up" my successor, until finally the congregation was temporarily moved to mission status, placed under a larger, healthier congregation, re-established and re-named. It is now a much healthier place with a bright future and a vibrant ministry, with many from those conflicted component congregations still present. It wasn't the people...it was that their inevitable conflict was delayed and allowed to strengthen underground until it became unmanageable.
Please take heed to the following article. It could save you decades of intensive institutional therapy, not to mention personal heartache and stress. As the author says, conflict is inevitable. The key is how you deal with it.
Chris Huff +
From "Daily Episcopalian" on "Episcopal Cafe"
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